Jaffrey residents take sides in double roundabout project

  • Jaffrey resident Christine Chesney spoke against the project, worried that traffic reconfiguration could be dangerous for children and others looking to walk downtown.  Staff photo by Nicholas Handy—

  • River Street resident Kelly Jean said she was against the two-roundabout project as one roundabout would greatly impact her house. Staff photo by Nicholas Handy—

  • Project Manager Marty Kennedy gave an overview of the proposed project, which involves constructing two roundabouts in the downtown area, among other things.  Staff photo by Nicholas Handy—

  • Jaffrey resident Harry Young spoke in favor of the project and encouraged others in the audience who favored the project to speak as well.  Staff photo by Nicholas Handy—

  • The currently proposed plan was handed out to all those in attendance at the meeting Thursday. Staff photo by Nicholas Handy—

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Friday, November 16, 2018 2:18PM

Residents were divided at Thursday night’s public hearing over a plan to add two roundabouts to downtown Jaffrey.

Around 75 people filed into the Jaffrey VFW for a public informational meeting for the state-funded project, which if approved is slated to begin construction in 2022.

Those in favor of the changes lauded the project’s potential to increase the pedestrian-friendliness of the downtown area, the traffic calming effects of the project, and the potential to bring more people and businesses to town.

“When I look at Jaffrey now, I see a Main Street area that in many ways is dying,” resident Jack Minteer said. “It’s a traffic flow nightmare for vehicles going through there. I think if Jaffrey is going to give itself a chance in revitalization it needs to alter it’s current traffic flow.”

But those against the project argued that bringing roundabouts to Jaffrey would create more danger for children walking around the downtown area, create a more hazardous four-way intersection, and affect a number of properties due to construction and alterations in the area.

“I don’t see how it’s going to help the flow of traffic for the pedestrian kids when they don’t even get a light to give them a pause,” resident Christine Chesney said. “… How do the kids cross the street from Stratton Road? Oh yeah, they go through where we are funneling all the big trucks and the traffic around the town. I won’t be letting my daughter go downtown anymore.”

The current “proposed action” plan calls for two roundabouts in the downtown area – one at the five-way intersection of Routes 202 and 124, Stratton Road, and Blake Street and another on River Street south of Red’s of Jaffrey.

A bridge will be built over the Contoocook River between Blake Street and River Street to connect the two roundabouts, allowing for through traffic to avoid downtown entirely – reducing the traffic in the area.

Changes also include removing the light at the intersection of Main Street, River Street and North Street in favor of stop signs, a change in the parking configuration on Blake Street and Main Street, and additional street parking on River Street. The stretch of Main Street between the four and five-way intersections will be reduced to two lanes of traffic.

Sidewalks will also be added in some areas and widened in others.

The goal, Project Manager Marty Kennedy of VHB said, is to greatly reduce traffic congestion and create a more pedestrian-friendly downtown.

“This will slow traffic coming into town,” Kennedy said. “You end up creating a gateway into downtown… we can also start to tie into existing sidewalks to encourage more pedestrian traffic.”

Two buildings – Lab ‘n Lager on Stratton Road and an apartment complex on River Street next to the Jaffrey War Memorial Park – will be acquired by the state if the project moves forward as currently proposed. Kennedy said discussions have begun with the property owners as the state provides relocation benefits.

“As much as I love the Lab ‘n Lager – and we will find another location for it – that right turn [from Blake Street to Stratton Road] is absolutely essential,” resident Patty Farmer said, referring to a slip lane and walkway hub shown on the current plan where Lab ‘n Lager currently is.

Other properties will also be impacted by the project, though Kennedy said much work was done to ensure that the least number of properties would be affected by the project.

Despite this effort, a few property owners on River Street spoke against the project due to the personal impact to their properties.

“It looks like you might have added a driveway for me, but unfortunately it looks like it’s going right into the second roundabout,” said Kelly Jean of 19 River Street. “… Right now everything is pretty peaceful down there – people don’t know my house exists – and this ruins it for me, it really does. I’d rather not have the project at all. It’s cool you didn’t take my house, but now my serene backyard with wildlife by the river is gone.”

In the interim, Kennedy said work has been done to reconfigure the traffic lights in the downtown area. While the change is working in the short term, Kennedy said more needs to be done to fix traffic congestion in the long term.

The next step for the project is to hold a public hearing some time next year, which would help to inform the decision as to whether the project will be constructed.

Nicholas Handy can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 235 or nhandy@ledgertranscript.com.